"Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Mainland"? Which "mainland"?

An obvious symptom of brainwashing in Taiwan (and elsewhere)

Because of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), for most of the past six decades, Taiwan's educational system has indoctrinated students with the concept that "my country" (我國/本國) includes Taiwan, the territory now controlled by the People's Republic of China (PRC), and Mongolia. As a result, certain words used by Taiwanese reveal how deeply this indoctrination has penetrated.

An  old Geography textbook used in Taiwan
An old Geography textbook used in Taiwan
Tim Maddog photo
(Click to enlarge)

While most elementary school students these days will state "Taiwan" (台灣) as the name of their country, and only an incredibly small minority will say they are from the "ROC" (中華民國), there's still a lot of deep-set confusion. As Professor Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰, AKA Jim Lee, of National Taipei University's Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture) explains in the piece I will translate below, the words we are exposed to on a daily basis affect our ability to see clearly and even to clearly form our own identity.

Here it is, 「大陸」「大陸」,哪個大陸? ("'Mainland,' 'mainland,' which mainland?") [translations, text coloration mine]:

People say, "This kind of person plays with this kind of bird" and "This kind of person uses these kinds of words" [both meaning: "A person is defined by the words they use"]. In the past, Taiwan's national identity has been a jumbled mess. From the different words that people use, you can spot the differences in people's sense of national identity and political affiliation.


Think back to the televised debate between Tsai Ing-wen and Ma Ying-jeou. Each time the PRC came up, Ma consistently referred to it as the "mainland" while Tsai referred to it more clearly as "China." The whole world knows that "China" refers to the country whose full name is the "People's Republic of China." But what about "mainland"? There is no country on Earth called "Mainland" [Maddog note: Though I've capitalized it here (as if it were the name of a country), it shouldn't actually be capitalized unless it's the first word in a sentence.] -- it's merely a geographic term which could variously refer to the Eurasian continent, the African continent, or the North and South American continents. So why say "mainland"? Because Ma identifies with China and considers Taiwan to be part of China. If he were to call the other side "China," it would mean that Taiwan is something separate -- something Ma could never admit. By calling China the "mainland," he means that the two sides belong to China and that the "mainland area" and "Taiwan area" are both part of that China. This actually belittles and disparages Taiwan.


For Ma-the-Chinese to call China the "mainland" isn't strange at all. What is strange is when supporters of Taiwan's independence use the word out of sheer habit, following others' use of "mainland" when they mean "China" -- this is a contradiction of their own principles.


The word "lùshēng" has recently entered Taiwan's vocabulary. This contains a similar meaning. "Lùshēng" is merely a short form of ""dàlùxuéshēng" ("mainland students"). To call Chinese students "lùshēng" is just as belittling and disparaging of Taiwan as using the word "mainland" instead of "China." A more natural short form would be "Zhōngshēng." How did that become "lùshēng"?


Another strange word which has appeared in recent years is "a-la̍k-á" [Maddog note: The pronunciation of that term is invariably Taiwanese, not Mandarin]. Many people call Chinese (people) "a-la̍k-á" with the middle word "la̍k" ["six"] having the same pronunciation in Taiwanese as the "lù" in "dàlù." "A-la̍k-á" itself bears a pejorative tone, but actually one may not realize that using this kind of tone to describe others can also belittle Taiwan, disparage the user, and show self-unawareness.


There are many more words used to belittle and disparage Taiwan. For example, calling Sun Yat-sen the "nation's founding father." Which "nation" is he the "founding father" of? Of course that would be the "Republic of China [ROC]." Don't say that even Sun himself didn't know he was called "the nation's founding father" by the Chinese KMT, but if he could know that some Taiwanese still call him the "nation's founding father," he'd be completely amazed because a year before he died, Sun appealed to Japan to allow Korea and Taiwan to become independent. For Taiwanese to call him the "nation's founding father," they must really be morons!


As for entertainers who wander off to China in search of money and who refer to the PRC as the "heartland," not even the word "moron" can describe what they are! When Taiwan was a Japanese colony, Taiwanese referred to Japan as the "heartland." However, during the Qing Dynasty, [what we now call] China was the "heartland." Present-day Taiwan doesn't belong to the PRC, yet people still use the term "heartland." People of Taiwan: How long will you humiliate yourselves like this?
One "mainland" which Professor Lee left out was Australia's. People in Tasmania will refer to the non-Tasmanian part of Australia as the "mainland" while people in New Zealand never do so -- because it's a whole other country. It's a good example to use with people who don't seem to "get it."

* A guy I met later on Facebook called in to New Taiwan Go Go Go (新台灣加油) to complain about so-called pro-Taiwan TV stations using the word "mainland." I posted the video on YouTube:

1:23 YouTube video: "Mr. Chuang wants green media to stop saying "mainland""

* Hena (Taiwanese for erhu, 二胡) player Kenny Wen is one of those who sold his soul to Beijing and was "forced" to call China the "heartland" (內地):

9:00 YouTube video: "Kenny Wen Teaches: How to sell your soul to the demons in Beijing"

* A Taiwan Matters post with links to videos of the entire debate referred to in Lee's piece: "Ralph Jennings pushes anti-Taiwan, pro-Ma propaganda"

* If you need help with the videos linked in the post at the link above, the Taipei Times translated the entire debate between Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) into English:
- Part One: Ma, Tsai lock horns in ECFA debate
- Part Two: Tsai questions Ma on job losses from signing ECFA

Words which mean things: , , , , , , ,

Cross-posted at Taiwan Matters!

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